Stitching Together Our Strengths and Diversity

 In Guest Blogs

November 23, 2016

Some of our readers saw and responded to this blog. However, because it ran the day after the Presidential election, I know readers were either celebrating or in remorse. It was a day that was taken up with very important “feelings.” Just as important is this message from Jeanne Hewell-Chambers and I don’t want you to miss it and I also hope you will participate.

Thomas Friedman tells the story of an immigrant who came to America from Zimbabwe in the 1980’s who offered this insight: “You Americans kick around your country like it’s a football. But it’s not a football. It’s a Fabergé egg. You can break it.”

Tomorrow, let us give thanks for all that is good and positive in our country. Let us work at stitching together our strengths and diversity.

Read on, please.

Occasionally, I feel an instant connection with a new person I meet whether on line or face to face. And so it was with Jeanne, an Internet friend. At first, we met through words because I appreciate the way she strings them together. Then I saw her art and another bell rang. Further endearment was added as I learned about Nancy, her husband’s sister who is developmentally challenged, and the quilts Jeanne is making from Nancy’s drawings.

Jeanne has the southerner’s charm of story-telling but also a laser focus on fairness and I gather wears a white hat on most days righting both small and large injustices with clarity, wit and a modicum of patience. So it is really not a surprise that the project you will read about today tackled her head on and she answered the call. It is with profound respect that I introduce Jeanne Hewell-Chambers.

And now the page is hers.

70273 Project Quilt One, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Pieced by Kitty Sorgen. Quilted by MJ Kinman.

Ideas? I collect them like charms that jingle on my wrist . . . often retreating to my computer to let some fictional woman breathe them into existence. But at the end of January 2016, an idea happened along, whispered in my ear, and refused to be handed off to some digital woman created in my imagination . . .

Between January 1940 and August 1941 through a program called Aktion T4, German Nazis murdered 70,273 physically and mentally disabled people. Assessing physicians never met the person they were evaluating, basing their decisions solely on a form created by the T4 leadership. Once two physicians placed a red X on the bottom of the form, the person was murdered.

The very minute I heard this, I knew what to do: gather 70,273 quilt blocks from around the world to commemorate each and every person murdered because they weren’t deemed perfect. Two weeks after the idea came to call, on Valentine’s Day . . . Love Day . . . my birthday, I launched The 70273 Project. Guidelines are few and simple:

  • blocks must be one of three sizes
  • a white base to represent the paper of the medical records
  • two red X’s on the white base to represent the death sentence
  • a signed Provenance Form from each Maker giving me permission to use the blocks.

Blocks began coming in right away, each as unique and individual as the person they represent.  Some are machine stitched:

70273 Project, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Block by Kitty Sorgen: USA.

70273 Project, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Kim Monins: Channel Islands, UK.

70273 Project; Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Gisele Therezien: Channel Islands, UK.

Some are hand stitched:

70273 Project; Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Linda Heron: Canada.

70273 Project; Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Steve Jankousky: USA.

70273 Project, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Faye Cook: Australia. Faye has a mentally disabled sister, Libby. We met through my pre-70273 posts about stitching Nancy’s marks and have become friends. They send me goodie bags of women’s dresses that have been purchased or cast-off from local charity shops. I use the dresses in another quilt series.

Some entire families make blocks:

70273 Project, Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Laurie Dunn’s grandsons show off the blocks they made: USA.

Some friends make blocks when they spend a weekend together:

70273 Project; Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Pieced top (it’s not quilted yet) by Loretta Forest and her friends on a recent weekend retreat.

Many blocks come with stories of relatives, friends, students, loved ones who would most likely have received two red X’s had they lived in a different time:

70273 Project; Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Chloe Grice: France. Chloe has an adorable 4-year-old daughter, Tula Belle, who has a disease that would most definitely have “earned” her two red X’s. Chloe uses antique French linens and laces in her blocks, and she sometimes uses cloth pieces from Tula’s upper body brace she must wear every single day.

70273 Project; Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Susan Graham, USA. Susan dedicated her blocks to students she taught. Because I don’t want anything but the two red X’s on the block – nothing that would pull focus, as we say in theatre and distract viewers’ attention from those we commemorate – she wrote the names on the back of the blocks.

Corinne Micropoulos used fabric from her grandmother, cloth she’d been saving for a special purpose:

70273 Project; Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Corinne Micropoulos: France. She writes that she’s been saving this fabric from her grandmother and feels that her grandmother is pleased to be working together on The 70273 Project through this fabric.

70273 Project; Ann Grasso Pattern Art

Pieced and Quilted by Janet Hartje.

Everyone can participate in The 70273 Project – even if you’ve never held a needle and thread. This is a project where we check perfection at the door and allow ourselves the freedom to just create without judgment. Through The 70273 Project, we commemorate people who were perfectly imperfect. To try to make The Perfect Block would be more of a travesty than a tribute.

70273 Project, Ann Grasso Pattern ARt

Pieced and quilted by Margaret Williams.

The finished quilts will be completed in all different sizes – something to fit any and every venue who will have them on exhibit. The purpose of The 70273 Project is threefold: commemorate those 70,273 people who were so casually and callously murdered; celebrate and raise awareness of those with special needs who live among us today; and educate all who will listen so that an atrocity like this never happens again.

Though it is a soft deadline because we will not stop until each person is commemorated, the goal is to have all 70,273 blocks in hand by the end of October 2017. Why? The German Nazis spent 20 months murdering these people, so we’ll spend 20 months commemorating them because it shouldn’t take longer to love than it takes to hate.

Won’t you join us? If you’d like to make blocks, a financial donation, or both, visit

Links of interest:

Showing 3 comments
  • Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

    Thank you for this encore, Ann, and for all the other ways you support The 70273 Project (and me). xo

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      Ann Grasso

      Good people with good projects deserve spotlight! My hope is that our readers will participate.

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70273 Project Quilt One, Ann Grasso Pattern ArtAaron Usher, Ann Grasso Pattern Art